1954 December 2

Senate Censures Joe McCarthy


By a vote of 67–22, the Senate on this day censured Senator Joe McCarthy for conduct “contrary to senatorial traditions,” referring to his reckless accusations of Communist influence in the federal government.

McCarthy burst onto the political scene with a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia on February 9, 1950, in which he claimed to have a list of Communists working for the federal government. His reckless tactics over the next four years gave the word “McCarthyism” to American political discourse.The cartoonist Herblock (for Herbert Block) is credited with creating the term “McCarthism” in a cartoon published on March 29, 1950.

McCarthy’s demise began earlier in 1954, on March 9, 1954, when CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow broadcast a 30-minute story on the senator, relying primarily on McCarthy’s own words. The program is one of the most famous in the history of television. It continued with the Army-McCarthy Hearings in the spring, marked by attorney Joseph N. Welch’s famous rebuke to McCarthy (“Have you no shame … at long last …?”) on June 9, 1954.

Excerpt from Senate Resolution 301: “ . . . This conduct of the Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, is contrary to senatorial traditions and is hereby condemned.”

Read the McCarthy Censure Resolution: http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=86&page=transcript

Learn more about McCarthy: David Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy (1983)

Watch “McCarthyism” in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nqMoJWt4UM

Watch the documentary on McCarthy, Point of Order: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EhOdSSI8n4

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